What's a WineWonk?

Wine Blogs by Wonk

Footer

Recent Blogs

Footer

Wine Articles by Blog

Footer
Write about Wine. Read about Life. WineWonks, the Wine Blog Community.

Shiraz    Friends

1299 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Date: Sat, Aug 1, 2009 Wine Tasting

There was time when beer was the only alcoholic beverage I drank. That was back when beer in the Student’s Union bar at ANU was a cheap 20 cents a glass (10 oz) or a $1 for a jug. Before I graduated I had moved on to spirits with Canadian Club being a favorite. Although the Scottish father of one girlfriend was always trying to convert me to Scotch, even at his daughter’s wedding reception! During those days wine was just starting to interest me. It became the primary focus only after I had a job and money to spend.

Decades later my exposure to beer usually means a Corona when Miranda and I have a quiet lunch or dinner at one of the local restaurants. But my interest in beer has been reignited after I met an Englishman in Washington, DC! It all came about when 20 of us sat around a table trying to figure out which research laboratories were the most deserving of government largess. After 10 hours of restrained squabbling it was time for dinner. Lebanese food and Lebanese wine, a passable start to the evening. But what to do next, walk back to the hotel, seek out an ice cream parlor, or follow the Englishman to a pub where he said they serve over a thousand beers. The English are not known for exaggeration but a thousand beers? Three of us decided to check it out, one because like the Englishman he makes his own home brews and the other two because we were thirsty.

What we found after a not insignificant walk on a rainy night was a covered stairway leading up to what looked like a house and turned out to be what can only be described as a dingy, dark bar. This didn’t look good but the dirty carpet, worn floorboards and smell of stale beer didn’t slow down the Englishman. Down to the bar only to find that there was no space. Up to the main floor where he found us a table cramped up against a wall, surrounded by tables of 20 somethings coddling all manner of beer glasses and bottles. Beer bottles and cans were everywhere as were beer posters and signs. A waitress placed a small booklet in front of each of us and said she would be back to take our orders. The Englishman was not exaggerating. There were 10 pages of beers with at least 100 per page. There were beers from Albania to Wales. The beers from Belgium alone covered almost two pages. Australia had two, two beers that is. There was one beer from a country called Tasmania! I didn’t want to point out the obvious because the list did split England, Scotland and Wales.

I started with a St Peter’s Old Style Porter (10.9 oz for $10.95USD) and followed that with a Daleside Old Leg Over cask ale (16.9 oz for $10.95USD). I was just warming up for a shot at a Thomas Hardy’s or JW Lees vintage ale when it was decided that we all needed to be sane and sober for another day of deciding who was worthy of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money.

But I’ll be back!

The Brickskeller was begun in 1957 with 51 different beers. In 2002 it held the Guinness World Record for the most varieties of beer commercially available, a crown which, I believe, is now held by the Delirium Cafe in Brussels; they serve over 2,400 different beers. The Brickskeller claims to be the Mother Church of Beer and to have served over 6000 different beers. With George Washington University close by you could call it a cross between a university bar and a dark, slightly unkempt, English pub. But whatever you want to call it, it’s definitely worth a visit.

I said I’ll be back but in truth I only get to DC two, sometimes three times a year. That means relying on the Brickskeller to quench my new found interest in beer could leave me might dry. Fortunalely San Diego does have its own version of the Brickskeller called South Bay Drugs and Liquor. Drugs and liquor in one place? Well this is California.

South Bay Drugs and Liquor began life as a drug store (or Chemist for those outside the USA) but has grown a sizable listing of 300 or so local and international beers, including vintage ales. Now I know where to get that JW Lees vintage ale.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

The Landmark Australia Tutorial Begins

Date: Mon, Jun 1, 2009 Wine Tasting

The first Landmark Australia Tutorial began today. OK, given the time change between San Diego and Adelaide it actually began almost one day ago. But the important thing is that it has begun. Twelve participants identified as international opinion-formers "with extensive wine experience in buying, selling or editorial decision making” will be spending five days learning about the history, depth and breadth of Australian wine from some of the truly outstanding figures of the Australian wine industry including principal tutors, Dr Tony Jordan, Michael Hill Smith AM MW and Andrew Caillard MW, as well as leading Australian wine experts James Halliday and Brian Croser.

A web site is up and running with details of the Tutorial as well as links to some of the blogs from a few of the participants, and the occasional tweet. But alas at least on my computer (one running Internet Explorer version 6) the format is terrible with a greenish bar running across the screen at regular intervals making the whole thing almost impossible to read. This is unfortunate as I wanted to be able to read about how the participants are enjoying (or otherwise) their experiences. I guess I’ll just have to follow along on the blogs of Jamie Goode, Julia Harding MW (Assistant to Jancis Robinson) and Tyler Colman.
Note: Using Intenet Explorer version 8 solves any problems the the Landmark Australia site.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Ever wonder how The Wine Advocate reviews wine?

Date: Wed, May 13, 2009 Wine Tasting

I guess there is something to the complaint in recent weeks that at The Wine Advocate it is common for some of the staff to avoid the written rules; see here

The procedure, contained in The Wine Advocate Rating System, states in part When possible all of my tastings are done in peer-group, single-blind conditions, (meaning that the same types of wines are tasted against each other and the producers' names are not known). The ratings reflect an independent, critical look at the wines. Neither price nor the reputation of the producer/grower affect the rating in any manner.....

The reality is this!

The conditions are clearly not peer-group nor single blind. And the comment that hosts ply him with enormous meals that leave him groggy and overfed is sure to raise the possibility of conflict of interest.

I guess Parker could argue that the text in the TWA Rating System refers to how he reviews and does apply to his independent contractors like Dr. Jay Miller. But why then do the good Doctor's reviews appear in The Wine Advocate?

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine decanting: Is it all hot air?

Date: Wed, May 6, 2009 Wine Tasting

In today’s LA Times W. Blake Gray has written about decanting. There are some very flowery comments, especially from Piero Selvaggio, owner of Valentino Restaurant Group. And some clearly single minded comments such as "Almost every wine in the world does benefit from aeration. The only exceptions are wines we rarely drink -- older, expensive Burgundies that could collapse with too much air," from Karen MacNeil, faculty chair of the wine department at the Culinary Institute of America's Greystone campus.

But then the piece ends with this. Susan Rodriguez, a research fellow at Cal State Fresno, recently did a blind tasting experiment and discovered that her panel could not tell the difference between a wine that had been decanted for two hours and the same wine right out of the bottle.

"The people who set it up were flabbergasted," Rodriguez says. "They were sure they could taste a difference."

That has been the experience here at SHIRAZ, just search the site under “decanting”

Read Full Wine Blog Post

An Education in Australian Wine

Date: Wed, Apr 8, 2009 Wine Tasting

I have at least 50 books on various aspects of wine in Australia, and I know there are at least a dozen or more sitting in the library of a relative in Australia. Plus there are quite a few that have been loaned, never to return! But even that number is far from a complete collection of the books that have been written. The Australian wine industry has a long history, and has grown so much in size and diversity in recent decades that its hard to recommend any single book as a complete treatise. But I do have one recommendation that is worth looking at. A set of four DVDs from Panorama International Productions titled Wine Trails of Australia.

Wine Trails of Australia won’t make you an instant expert on Aussie wines but it will give you an excellent introduction to the various wine regions and winemakers that contribute to the diversity of wines on the island continent. All the major regions, Barossa, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Clare Valley, are covered, and that is just South Australia. Unfortunately after that things get a little confusing. The regions are then addressed mainly as either states (Western Australia, Victoria) or cities (Sydney, Melbourne). But the biggest problem is that the four DVD set has been complied without any thought given to organizing the regions either in terms of location, importance or history. So Volume 1 gives you Barossa, Riverina, Queensland and Canberra, and the latter has footage and commentary from the Orange region mixed in. This will be more than a little confusing to those with no knowledge of Australian wine regions. But you are more than compensated by excellent scenery and a wealth of history in terms of the region or city as well as the wines.

Several winemakers provide commentary about their wines in each of the 14 episodes and some might consider some of the statements as shameless advertising of their own products. But the wines are their livelihood so if anyone has the right to self-advertise they do! More enticing are the snippets of history that run throughout the episodes. They don’t all relate to wine but I guarantee you that you will learn something new. And even if you do consider yourself an expert on all things pertaining to Aussie wine you might end up learning a few interesting bits of wine trivia. For example, Yellow Tail started out expecting to sell 25,000 cases of wine into the USA but sold 7, 000,000 and all by word of mouth, no advertising! Or that the winemaker at Katnook, Wayne Stehbens, tools around in a power blue Bolwell MKVIII, also known as the Nagari, with a monster air intake over the engine.

With a series like this you might expect there to be a web site with material that didn’t make it into the finished product or even out-takes from the original filming. And at the end of every episode you are encouraged to visit http://www.aussiewinetrail.com/. But don’t get too excited because such a site does not exist.

The DVD set has a release date of October 29, 2007 but it is not clear when the footage was actually shot. The best buy is the complete set at approximately $40USD from Amazon as buying the individual episodes will set you back $18AUD each and then you only get 13 of the 14.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

The alcoholic level, it was too high.

Date: Fri, Mar 27, 2009 Wine Tasting

Three posts in one day! Well that’s because Shiraz is still alive, and no more so than when extolling the virtues of Aussie wine, especially South Australian wine. Here is a little tidbit from The Australian online.

"The alcoholic level, it was too high." This comment on South Australian wine is dropped into the conversation by Spaniard Emiliano Matesanz in listing the things he found odd on moving to Adelaide at the end of 2006.

He quickly adds: "But once you start to understand and taste the different types of wine you have here, it is beautiful."

Beautiful, just beautiful. What else is there to say?

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Drinking with SHIRAZ on Saturday – Red Burgundy Feb 21 2009

Date: Fri, Mar 27, 2009 Wine Tasting

As I have noted before there is nothing more confusing in the world of wine than Burgundy. The only really simple fact is that the reds are made from Pinot Noir. That is unless they are from the Beaujolais region in which case they are made from Gamay. Yes, Beaujolais is considered part of Burgundy; I told you it is confusing.

Lost as I may be in terms of understanding the appellation system in Burgundy that does not stop me from tasting the wines. Although I am often hesitant in buying them for the simple reason of, again, confusion. Confusion with what is written on the labels of the bottles. At these Saturday tastings I always go up to the wine bar after I have tasted and scored the wines to record their alcohol content. The reason for doing this is almost unconscious and it has its explanation in being a Shiraz lover. It’s a macho thing, I have to prove to myself that it is Shiraz that carries the big numbers. In any case with Burgundy, it doesn’t matter if its red or white, what is written on the label is often much more than what is written on the tasting sheet. Now it may be that the person writing up the wine list is just trying to save space. But all the head nodding, going back and forth from the wine labels to the tasting sheet, makes me look like my head is on a spring. And that is just not kind especially to someone who was told as a 15 year old that it would be a good idea if he did drop French and take up Agriculture!

What do I expect from red Burgundy? Well there should be power mixed with grace. Don’t confuse tannins with power; the power should come from the fruit (if a young wine). The mouthfeel should be silky, slippery, gliding over the tongue. And the flavors will have an Old World earthiness mingling with aromas of strawberry and cherry. There should be acidity and it should enhance the lightness of the wine on the palate. Lightness, grace and power, they seem a contradiction but when I taste a really good Burgundy all three are there, swirling and dancing around each other.

First Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. Strawberry, Cola, a little cherry and brambles. Nice acidity, adequate length. Well structured even if quite a simple wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.5, 9.5=17.0/20, 85/100.
Drink: 2012-2016.
Wine: 2007 Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes-de-Beaune, Domaine Arnoux Pere et Fils (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 12.5%
Price: $17.99USD

Second Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. Quite muted with suggestions of cherry and orange peel struggling up from the wine. A slightly sour acidity is the dominant feature and its not helped by the lack of depth to the middle palate.
Score: 2, 2, 3.4, 9.4=16.8/20, 84/100.
Drink: 2013-2017.
Wine: 2006 Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Bachey-Legros (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $18.99USD

Third Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. Aromas of graphite and a hint of truffles dominate over a touch of cherry. A well structured lighter wine with juicy acidity and good carry of Pinot Noir flavors across the palate. A pleasant wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.7, 9.8=17.5/20, 87/100.
Drink: 2012-2018.
Wine: 2006 Mercurey Premier Cru, Clos de Montaigus, Domaine Patrick Size (Côte Chalonnaise)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol:
Price: $25.99USD

Fourth Wine
Light cherry red with pink edge. A little sulphur with forest floor and cherry notes. Quite fragrant but this does fade. Medium weight with good structure and balance and an appealing finish. A more pronounced presence on the palate that the previous wines.
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 10.0=18.0/20, 90/100.
Drink: 2011-2018.
Wine: 2006 Santenay Premier Cru Clos Rousseau, Domaine Bachey-Legros (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol:
Price: $31.99USD

Fifth Wine
Bright cherry red with pink edge. There is more power to this wine and its enhanced by notes of musk, brambles and cherry. A wine of excellent balance and structure. The acidity is quite pronounced but it adds real zip to the wine and marries well with the fine finish.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 10.2=18.1/20, 91/100.
Drink: 2013-2020.
Wine: 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge, Plantes Momieres, Domaine Bachey-Legros (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol:
Price: $31.99USD

Sixth Wine
Bright cherry red with pink edge. Definite Pinot Noir characters of strawberry and cherry intermingles with a little dusty oak and anise. The prominent acidity covers the palate and curls the tongue but its supported by excellent flavors and good length. Too young at present. Will definitely improve.
Score: 2, 2, 4.1, 9.6=17.7/20, 89/100.
Drink: 2014-2020+
Wine: 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Seuvrées, Domaine Castagnier (Côte de Nuits)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $44.99USD

Seventh Wine
Light Cherry red with pink edge. Sulphur/graphite over faint lychee, mushroom and spices. Medium weight with excellent mouthfeel. Better concentration than the previous wines even though the acidity is again dominant. Excellent length. Will need time to show its true character but it pushes all the right buttons.
Score: 2, 2, 4.1, 10.2=18.3/20, 92/100.
Drink: 2013-2019.
Wine: 2006 Aloxe-Corton Les Caillettes, Domaine Henri Delagrange (Côte de Beaune)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $38.99USD

Eighth Wine
Vibrant cherry red with pink edge; looks to be very young. Much riper and forward than the rest with mulberry, raspberry, oak and sweet tea – seems New World. Medium weight with excellent flavor carry, bright acidity and very firm tannins on the finish; even the alcohol pokes out. Will needs loads of time to soften.
Score: 2, 2, 3.7, 10.0=17.7/20, 88/100
Drink:
Wine: 2006 Chambolle-Musigny, Les Bussières, Domaine Olivier Jouan (Côte de Nuits)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13%
Price: $38.99USD

Ninth Wine
A deeper cherry red with a red/pink edge; darkest wine of the group. Quite confected with anise and mulberry. Soft and velvety on entry with excellent flavor carry across the palate, finishing with firm tannins. Shows considerable concentration and power. Has the potential to really improve over the next 5-10 years.
Score: 2, 2, 3.5, 10.3=17.8/20, 89/100.
Drink: 2015-2025.
Wine: 2006 Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru, Les Ruchots, Domaine Olivier Jouan (Côte de Nuits)
Closure: Cork
Alcohol:
Price: $44.99USD

From under the Wine Bar

The Burgundy tastings at Vintage Wines are $10 affairs and sometimes there are a few special wines under the bar. I just happened to walk up to the bar to see if I could fill out the identities of the wines from the labels when the store owner began to pour out two additional wines, and he gave me a taste. Both were Grand Cru wines; the 2006 Charmes Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Oliver Jouan (Côte de Nuits), and the 2006 Clos Saint Denis, Domaine Castagnier (Côte de Nuits). I received only a small pour, not really enough to sit with and write notes on, but both wines were what red Burgundy is all about. Velvety soft with wonderful spicy, floral, earthy aromas that caress the palate with the sensation that it has been enveloped with the most wonderful of liquids. Wines you could luxuriate in.

As a contrast to this sampling of red Burgundy I asked for a taste of the one California Pinot Noir on the Wine Bar. It was the 2007 Siduri Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills region. Santa Rita Hills is a cool-climate viticultural region within the Santa Ynez Valley, and is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Siduri was dark cherry red in color with a reddish pink edge. Initially it smelled of pepper, plum, ripe cherry, and glue (incomplete malo?) with a toasted note developing with time; nothing at all like my impression of Pinot Noir. On the palate it was medium to full bodied with excellent flavor carry, juicy acidity, soft, ripe tannins and an attractive spicy note on the lengthy finish. It was very drinkable. It just was not Pinot Noir. Score: 2, 2, 3.2, 9.9=17.1/20, 85/100.

For more on Burgundy go here. For more on the Burgundies tasted go here.

Image © iStockphoto.com/RobertH2255

Read Full Wine Blog Post

On Wine Fools

Date: Fri, Mar 27, 2009 Wine Tasting

Picture the scene. A wine tasting of high end Old World wines, let’s say Burgundies. The room is bustling with all manner of wine drinkers, all with different levels of experience from the professional to the newly minted wine drinker. Most are gathered around the pourers, glasses thrust forward for their share of amber liquid.

A small group of three stands apart, a wine neophyte, a Sommelier and a wine critic, each with his nose inserted deeply into his glass of Grand Cru Chambolle-Musigny. Screwing up his face and exhaling a snort through his nose the wine critic is first to offer an opinion “This is ghastly”. The neophyte, taken aback, casts his eyes to the floor but then summons the courage to say “No I disagree. Underneath that unusual odor there is a delicate floral aroma that I find appealing”. The Sommelier, smiling kindly, looks at the neophyte. “Yes, you are right. There is something there that is quite attractive. Well done, a floral note can be quite typical of a Chambolle-Musigny. But do you also detect the musty, wet newspaper odor as well? And when you taste the wine do you find it more than a little acidic, even metallic, and lacking fruit character?” “Well, yes” says the neophyte. “I smell and taste those things but I don’t know what they are. Do you know?”

“They are typical of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole or TCA. Its most often produced when fungi convert chlorophenol into chloroanisole. It can be a problem with a small percentage of corks which is why a wine smelling of TCA is said to be corked.” “Ah, so that is what a corked wine smells like” says the neophyte, burying his nose into his wine glass once again. “I have smelt that in a few wines, but I didn’t know what it was. Thank you for explaining it to me.”

Turning to the critic the Sommelier adds “What do you think about our new friend. He has quite a good sense of smell. With a little more knowledge on wine faults he will be an asset to our tasting group.” “No, he is a fool” scoffs the critic,”It doesn’t matter what he can smell. A corked wine is a corked wine”, and walks off to find others of similar persuasion. “Don’t mind him” says the Sommelier “He’s always been a wine snob”.

What prompted this little post? Just the opinion that if you are going to call a wine drinker a fool you probably are not a person that will draw a sympathetic audience when you want to talk (or write) about wine.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Seduced by a Label

Date: Mon, Mar 16, 2009 Wine Tasting

This weekend we finished the second bottle of what hopefully is the worst wine I will drink this year. I was told that the label was by the guy who did the album cover for the Beatles Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and so I bought two bottles because Miranda is a BIG Beatles fan and so is her English pen-friend of 40+ years. It was thus a memento/gift without regard to the quality of the wine. But, of course, the label designer was not the guy who did Sgt Pepper's, so we decided to open one about a week ago. It’s a California Cabernet (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, 2% Petit Syrah) but at about $12USD/btl you don’t expect much. And there wasn’t much, except for the wood splinters – and this is from someone who doesn’t mind a bit of oak. So why open the second bottle on the weekend? Lighting doesn’t strike the same wine twice, right? Yes it does. This stuff was so difficult to drink that Miranda tipped her’s down the sink, but I persevered over two nights. And this was purely as an academic exercise to see how much punishment my palate can stand. The answer? Not a lot. If you ever see any R Wines Red Label Cabernet Sauvignon don’t buy it, not even for the label. I think tonight I’ll pull out an over oaked, unbalanced 16% alcohol Shiraz just to appease the taste buds.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Drinking with SHIRAZ on Saturday – Pinot Noir Feb 7 2009

Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2009 Wine Tasting

For many Pinot Noir is the wine from the movie Sideways. To others it is the grape of red Burgundy and it even finds its way into Champagne. As a grape variety Pinot Noir is apparently quite old and also prone to mutate, hence there are numerous clones of Pinot Noir. If you are a maker of Pinot Noir wines, especially in the New World, then one difficulty you face is selecting the clones or clones of Pinot Noir that best suit your location and wine making practices. If you are a true aficionado of Pinot Noir then your focus is on Burgundy, whose wines serve as a benchmark when you taste, should you so condescend, Pinot Noir from the rest of the world.

If you are me you don’t really worry greatly about the snob appeal or otherwise of an individual Pinot Noir wine, you just hope it tastes of the grape itself. In other words for me a Pinot Noir wine has to have varietal character. What is the varietal character of Pinot Noir? The wine must be light in color, much lighter than a Shiraz for example. The aromas should be of cherry and strawberry, and perhaps the forest floor and/or truffles. There may be violets, but there should not be stewed plum or any other flavor associated with overripe grapes. Why? Because a Pinot Noir wine should express a degree of delicacy; it is after all a delicate grape. The mouthfeel of the wine should be medium weight with vibrant acidity and fine tannins. Silky, velvety are descriptors that are often used for the fineness of the tannins. Pinot Noir is a very sensitive wine and its not uncommon to uncork a young wine and find that the edge has begun to turn orange/brown; I don’t trust such a wine to live for very long. Alternatively you can pull the cork on a 10-20 year old Pinot and it will look (and taste) almost as though it were bottled last week. Did I say its a pernickety grape!

The tasting of Pinot Noir at Vintage Wines of Feb 7th could have been of wines from anywhere except Burgundy (that tasting was on Feb 21). As it turned out all the wines were from the US.

First Wine
Cherry red with a pink edge. Sweetly flavored with notes of strawberry, cherry and bubblegum. There is even a Cola note lurking with some smoke. Medium bodied with adequate flavor carry and fine tannins that become more compact on the finish. It has a pleasant and uncomplicated, if not charismatic, appeal.
Score: 2, 2, 3.4, 9.3=16.7/20, 84/100
Drink: Now to 2012
Wine: 2006 Saintsbury Vineyard, Carneros, California, USA; Clones: Pommard, Swan, 115, 667 and 777; 20% Lee Vineyards, 16% Toyon Farm, 6% Saintsbury Home, 15% Stanly Ranch, 7% RMS, 8% Brown Ranch, 5% Cerise, 6% Rodgers Creek. 17% misc.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $23.99USD

Second Wine
Cherry red in color with an attractive pink edge. More earthy with brambly fruit and a hint of musk and strawberry. Medium weight with acidity that catches the focus of the palate. Fine, ripe tannins carry an excellent finish, but again a rather simple, uncomplicated wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 9.5=17.4/20, 87/100
Drink: Drink now to 2015
Wine: 2007 Fritz Winery, Russian River Valley, California, USA;
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13.9%
Price: $17.99USD

Third Wine
Cherry red with pink edge. A little closed with musk over a citrus note, some cherry and forest floor. A well balanced wine of medium weight with excellent flavor carry. Opens with some air to reveal more Pinot Noir character on its lengthy finish. A well made wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.8, 10.1=17.9/20. 89/100
Drink: Now to 2017
Wine: 2006 Soter Winery, North Valley, Oregon, USA; North end of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13.9%
Price: $31.99

Fourth Wine
Cherry red with pink edge. More Pinot Noir in character than the previous wines with forest floor and cherry over a toasted oak note and perhaps a touch of sulphur. Its fresh and lively in the mouth with nice flavors but the a slight sweetness detracts from the appeal. The tannins are soft, the acidity adequate and the finish has good length but its another uncomplicated wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 9.6=17.5/20, 87/100
Drink: Now to 2015
Wine: 2006 De Ponte “Clay Hill”, Dundee Hills, Oregon, USA;
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.2%
Price: $33.99USD

Fifth Wine
Deeper cherry red with a pink/red edge; deepest colored wine of the flight. A richer, riper style with plum, ripe cherry, a hint of Cola, varnish and dusty oak. Fuller on the palate the flavors carry extremely well and are supported by firm tannins and juicy, mouthwatering acidity. There is definite appeal here but its difficult to see any Pinot Noir character.
Score: 2, 2, 3.6, 9.6=17.2/20, 86/100
Drink: 2010 to who knows? The acidity and tannins could hold it for some time but its not likely to look like Pinot Noir.
Wine: 2005 Ampelos Cellars, “Lambda”, Santa Rita Hills, California, USA; the clonal composition is 61% clone 115, 5% 667 and 777, 3% 828 and 31% pommard.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $24.99USD

Sixth Wine
Cherry red tinged with orange brown and a orange brown edge; either older or oxidized. Another shy wine. There is richness lurking there but with a bottom note of ketchup mixed with spices and a touch of caramel (Oxidation?). In the mouth this is an extremely appealing wine with softness and suppleness lacking in the other wines. What flavors there are carry beautifully across the palate to a lengthy finish. A very nice wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 10.3=18.3/20, 92/100
Drink: Its hard to tell how long this wine will live if it has premature oxidation. I’d like to taste it again to see if there is any bottle variation. If sound it could live a good ten years or more.
Wine: 2006 Alcina Cellars, Raimondo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, California, USA;
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.7%
Price: $27.99USD

The one thing I was hoping to see with these wines was one or two of the rich over-ripe Pinot Noir that populate wine shop shelves in the USA. Some of them can be quite extraordinary because of the palette of flavors they present even though they sacrifice varietal character. The 2005 Ampelos Cellars “Lambda” fits into the mold. I’m not a big fan of the style but there is no doubt that it has its advocates. What I would have liked to have seen in this tasting was a Mount Eden Pinot Noir. Even though the current vintages are made in a different style to those of past decades the Mount Eden, to me, represents excellent value for money in American Pinot Noir and those past vintages have aged wonderfully. From the wines tasted the Soter has to take the gong as the wine with the most potential to age and its consistently good as a previous tasting shows.

2006 Soter Pinot Noir, North Valley, Oregon, USA. $31.99USDCherry red with pink edge. Aromas in the bramble/earthy spectrum over a mélange of strawberry and cherry. Its attractive, and even has varietal character. Light-medium in weight with expressive and yet delicate flavors on the palate and an excellent, supple mouthfeel. A nice little wine, still young, might grow into something you would want to spend some time with. Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 10.2=18.1/20, 90/100. Tasted Jan 17, 2009

Image © iStockphoto.com/ norme

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Drinking with SHIRAZ on Saturday – Pinot Noir Feb 7 2009

Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2009 Wine Tasting

For many Pinot Noir is the wine from the movie Sideways. To others it is the grape of red Burgundy and it even finds its way into Champagne. As a grape variety Pinot Noir is apparently quite old and also prone to mutate, hence there are numerous clones of Pinot Noir. If you are a maker of Pinot Noir wines, especially in the New World, then one difficulty you face is selecting the clones or clones of Pinot Noir that best suit your location and wine making practices. If you are a true aficionado of Pinot Noir then your focus is on Burgundy, whose wines serve as a benchmark when you taste, should you so condescend, Pinot Noir from the rest of the world.

If you are me you don’t really worry greatly about the snob appeal or otherwise of an individual Pinot Noir wine, you just hope it tastes of the grape itself. In other words for me a Pinot Noir wine has to have varietal character. What is the varietal character of Pinot Noir? The wine must be light in color, much lighter than a Shiraz for example. The aromas should be of cherry and strawberry, and perhaps the forest floor and/or truffles. There may be violets, but there should not be stewed plum or any other flavor associated with overripe grapes. Why? Because a Pinot Noir wine should express a degree of delicacy; it is after all a delicate grape. The mouthfeel of the wine should be medium weight with vibrant acidity and fine tannins. Silky, velvety are descriptors that are often used for the fineness of the tannins. Pinot Noir is a very sensitive wine and its not uncommon to uncork a young wine and find that the edge has begun to turn orange/brown; I don’t trust such a wine to live for very long. Alternatively you can pull the cork on a 10-20 year old Pinot and it will look (and taste) almost as though it were bottled last week. Did I say its a pernickety grape!

The tasting of Pinot Noir at Vintage Wines of Feb 7th could have been of wines from anywhere except Burgundy (that tasting was on Feb 21). As it turned out all the wines were from the US.

First Wine
Cherry red with a pink edge. Sweetly flavored with notes of strawberry, cherry and bubblegum. There is even a Cola note lurking with some smoke. Medium bodied with adequate flavor carry and fine tannins that become more compact on the finish. It has a pleasant and uncomplicated, if not charismatic, appeal.
Score: 2, 2, 3.4, 9.3=16.7/20, 84/100
Drink: Now to 2012
Wine: 2006 Saintsbury Vineyard, Carneros, California, USA; Clones: Pommard, Swan, 115, 667 and 777; 20% Lee Vineyards, 16% Toyon Farm, 6% Saintsbury Home, 15% Stanly Ranch, 7% RMS, 8% Brown Ranch, 5% Cerise, 6% Rodgers Creek. 17% misc.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $23.99USD

Second Wine
Cherry red in color with an attractive pink edge. More earthy with brambly fruit and a hint of musk and strawberry. Medium weight with acidity that catches the focus of the palate. Fine, ripe tannins carry an excellent finish, but again a rather simple, uncomplicated wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 9.5=17.4/20, 87/100
Drink: Drink now to 2015
Wine: 2007 Fritz Winery, Russian River Valley, California, USA;
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13.9%
Price: $17.99USD

Third Wine
Cherry red with pink edge. A little closed with musk over a citrus note, some cherry and forest floor. A well balanced wine of medium weight with excellent flavor carry. Opens with some air to reveal more Pinot Noir character on its lengthy finish. A well made wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.8, 10.1=17.9/20. 89/100
Drink: Now to 2017
Wine: 2006 Soter Winery, North Valley, Oregon, USA; North end of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 13.9%
Price: $31.99

Fourth Wine
Cherry red with pink edge. More Pinot Noir in character than the previous wines with forest floor and cherry over a toasted oak note and perhaps a touch of sulphur. Its fresh and lively in the mouth with nice flavors but the a slight sweetness detracts from the appeal. The tannins are soft, the acidity adequate and the finish has good length but its another uncomplicated wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 9.6=17.5/20, 87/100
Drink: Now to 2015
Wine: 2006 De Ponte “Clay Hill”, Dundee Hills, Oregon, USA;
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.2%
Price: $33.99USD

Fifth Wine
Deeper cherry red with a pink/red edge; deepest colored wine of the flight. A richer, riper style with plum, ripe cherry, a hint of Cola, varnish and dusty oak. Fuller on the palate the flavors carry extremely well and are supported by firm tannins and juicy, mouthwatering acidity. There is definite appeal here but its difficult to see any Pinot Noir character.
Score: 2, 2, 3.6, 9.6=17.2/20, 86/100
Drink: 2010 to who knows? The acidity and tannins could hold it for some time but its not likely to look like Pinot Noir.
Wine: 2005 Ampelos Cellars, “Lambda”, Santa Rita Hills, California, USA; the clonal composition is 61% clone 115, 5% 667 and 777, 3% 828 and 31% pommard.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $24.99USD

Sixth Wine
Cherry red tinged with orange brown and a orange brown edge; either older or oxidized. Another shy wine. There is richness lurking there but with a bottom note of ketchup mixed with spices and a touch of caramel (Oxidation?). In the mouth this is an extremely appealing wine with softness and suppleness lacking in the other wines. What flavors there are carry beautifully across the palate to a lengthy finish. A very nice wine.
Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 10.3=18.3/20, 92/100
Drink: Its hard to tell how long this wine will live if it has premature oxidation. I’d like to taste it again to see if there is any bottle variation. If sound it could live a good ten years or more.
Wine: 2006 Alcina Cellars, Raimondo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, California, USA;
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.7%
Price: $27.99USD

The one thing I was hoping to see with these wines was one or two of the rich over-ripe Pinot Noir that populate wine shop shelves in the USA. Some of them can be quite extraordinary because of the palette of flavors they present even though they sacrifice varietal character. The 2005 Ampelos Cellars “Lambda” fits into the mold. I’m not a big fan of the style but there is no doubt that it has its advocates. What I would have liked to have seen in this tasting was a Mount Eden Pinot Noir. Even though the current vintages are made in a different style to those of past decades the Mount Eden, to me, represents excellent value for money in American Pinot Noir and those past vintages have aged wonderfully. From the wines tasted the Soter has to take the gong as the wine with the most potential to age and its consistently good as a previous tasting shows.

2006 Soter Pinot Noir, North Valley, Oregon, USA. $31.99USDCherry red with pink edge. Aromas in the bramble/earthy spectrum over a mélange of strawberry and cherry. Its attractive, and even has varietal character. Light-medium in weight with expressive and yet delicate flavors on the palate and an excellent, supple mouthfeel. A nice little wine, still young, might grow into something you would want to spend some time with. Score: 2, 2, 3.9, 10.2=18.1/20, 90/100. Tasted Jan 17, 2009

Image © iStockphoto.com/ norme

Read Full Wine Blog Post

The Wine Advocate Does Australia

Date: Thu, Feb 26, 2009 Wine Tasting

Jay Miller, Robert Parker's surrogate taster of Australian wines, has come out with his latest set of reviews after his 2008 visit. The wines are reviewed in Issue # 181 of The Wine Advocate. Miller provides reviews of 1072 wines, which I believe is the largest number reviewed so far by The Wine Advocate. But its his introduction, titled Australia 2009: Into the Abyss that will see Parker’s followers, and quite a few others, nodding their heads.

"In my tastings for this report, many, if not most, of the importers with whom I sat down have trimmed their portfolios and/or begun to diversify into what they perceive as more fertile ground, particularly Spain and Argentina. In not much more than a decade the market has gone from boom to bust and to an unsettled future. "– Jay Miller, The Wine Advocate

Miller uses import figures from Oct 2007 to Oct 2008 to show that Aussie wines imported into the USA under $10 have seen double digit growth but wines over $20 have decreased by 50%. He gives a few reasons for this but avoids one that bears consideration and that is that Parker’s focus on South Australia has been the foundation stone for the boom and the bust.

Robert Parker never really saw value in many of the wines outside South Australia. True wines were recommended from a variety of regions but his main focus never really strayed from the Barossa and McLaren Vale for almost a decade. That myopic view lead to too many wines from too many producers that were just too similar. It meant importers like The Grateful Palate could establish virtual wineries producing export only wines for a specific market without regard for regional character. Such wines were nameless and faceless to wine drinkers in Australia and therefore lacked the backing of those who know the countries’ wines best. Such wines could never represent the regional diversity of Australia that is far, far broader than Robert Parler’s palate. Or as one importer told Miller “designer brands with no real core values – no bricks and mortar, no faces and places behind them, no regional expressions” Designed for whom is a question that must be asked.

Miller does seem to appreciate the diversity in Australia better than his boss, so has that changed how The Wine Advocate sees regional Australia? Perhaps not. I’ve not yet had the time to look through all 1072 recommendations but what is a concern is that on the first 2 pages of that 22 page list of scores there are only 5 non-South Australian dry wines (all Victorian) among a mass of South Australians. The great diversity of Australian wine deserves better than that.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Bottle Shock

Date: Tue, Feb 17, 2009 Wine Tasting

Bottle Shock is very loosely based on George M. Taber’s excellent book “Judgment of Paris” in which Californian wineries win a 1976 tasting competition against French wines from Burgundy (white) and Bordeaux (red). The story in Bottle Shock centers on Jim and Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena and their 1973 Chardonnay that won the white wine tasting set up by Steven Spurrier of the L’Academie du Vin in Paris. But that is where any serious similarities with history end.

The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was only the second vintage after Jim Barrett (and Ernie Hahn) had purchased the winery and Barrett was still practicing law. Virtually ignored in the movie is Mike Grgich, the actual winemaker at Chateau Montelena. Grgich appears several times in the movie but is not identified and if you did not know that he wore a beret you would not know who he was. He is the person standing next to Jim Barrett in the winery when Barrett exclaims “Crap. Mike, its not clear”. And then tells Bo that the wine will need to be racked again. Even the discoloration of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, a tragedy in the making in the movie and the reason for the movies' name, is a bone of contention. Barrett says that it did happen but Grgich has said that the 1973 was “perfect from the very beginning” and that the 1972 wine had a temporary discoloration.

Bottle Shock comes on the heels of two recent movies that feature wine, Sideways and A Good Year. Bottle Shock has none of the (black) comedy, romance, music, or wine lore of Sideways. It also fails to measure up to A Good Year which, like Sideways, has a fictional storyline. And some quite passable comedic acting by Russell Crowe. The failure of Bottle Shock to succeed may well lie at the feet of those who thought they could rewrite history for the “silver screen”. Hollywood rarely does well at transferring non-fiction to fiction; too much is lost in the conversion.

One aspect of the movie that is difficult to understand is that while a number of the real life personalities are left out of the movie the French wine judges are described in great detail. Eight of the judges noted in the Appendix of Taber’s “Judgment of Paris” are correctly identified. Missing is Michel Dovaz who taught wine courses at the Academie du Vin in Paris. Also missing is Patricia Gastaud-Gallagher who was a director at the l'Academie du Vin and who was also intimately involved, with Spurrier, in organizing the Paris tasting. It has been stated in other reviews that the movie is a poke in the eye of the French and this very accurate identification of the French wine judges would seem to support that possibility; the outcome of the tasting was so embarrassing for the judges that at least one, Kahn, asked for her scorecard back.

Additional Features on the DVD include four deleted scenes, An Underdog’s Journey: The making of Bottle Shock, Chateau Montelena: One winery’s search for excellence, and audio commentary by the cast and crew. To be brutally honest none of these add to the movie or the true story behind the Judgment of Paris. If you want history read Taber’s book. If you want a movie woven around wine buy the Sideways DVD.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Bottle Shock

Date: Tue, Feb 17, 2009 Wine Tasting

Bottle Shock is very loosely based on George M. Taber’s excellent book “Judgment of Paris” in which Californian wineries win a 1976 tasting competition against French wines from Burgundy (white) and Bordeaux (red). The story in Bottle Shock centers on Jim and Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena and their 1973 Chardonnay that won the white wine tasting set up by Steven Spurrier of the L’Academie du Vin in Paris. But that is where any serious similarities with history end.

The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was only the second vintage after Jim Barrett (and Ernie Hahn) had purchased the winery and Barrett was still practicing law. Virtually ignored in the movie is Mike Grgich, the actual winemaker at Chateau Montelena. Grgich appears several times in the movie but is not identified and if you did not know that he wore a beret you would not know who he was. He is the person standing next to Jim Barrett in the winery when Barrett exclaims “Crap. Mike, its not clear”. And then tells Bo that the wine will need to be racked again. Even the discoloration of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, a tragedy in the making in the movie and the reason for the movies' name, is a bone of contention. Barrett says that it did happen but Grgich has said that the 1973 was “perfect from the very beginning” and that the 1972 wine had a temporary discoloration.

Bottle Shock comes on the heels of two recent movies that feature wine, Sideways and A Good Year. Bottle Shock has none of the (black) comedy, romance, music, or wine lore of Sideways. It also fails to measure up to A Good Year which, like Sideways, has a fictional storyline. And some quite passable comedic acting by Russell Crowe. The failure of Bottle Shock to succeed may well lie at the feet of those who thought they could rewrite history for the “silver screen”. Hollywood rarely does well at transferring non-fiction to fiction; too much is lost in the conversion.

One aspect of the movie that is difficult to understand is that while a number of the real life personalities are left out of the movie the French wine judges are described in great detail. Eight of the judges noted in the Appendix of Taber’s “Judgment of Paris” are correctly identified. Missing is Michel Dovaz who taught wine courses at the Academie du Vin in Paris. Also missing is Patricia Gastaud-Gallagher who was a director at the l'Academie du Vin and who was also intimately involved, with Spurrier, in organizing the Paris tasting. It has been stated in other reviews that the movie is a poke in the eye of the French and this very accurate identification of the French wine judges would seem to support that possibility; the outcome of the tasting was so embarrassing for the judges that at least one, Kahn, asked for her scorecard back.

Additional Features on the DVD include four deleted scenes, An Underdog’s Journey: The making of Bottle Shock, Chateau Montelena: One winery’s search for excellence, and audio commentary by the cast and crew. To be brutally honest none of these add to the movie or the true story behind the Judgment of Paris. If you want history read Taber’s book. If you want a movie woven around wine buy the Sideways DVD.

Read Full Wine Blog Post


Friends of Winewonks



Wine Spectator Online

#1 Online Wine Store

Manage Your Cellar

PokerStars Bonus Code

PokerStars Marketing Code


Check out some More Wonks Blog Communities!

Whether you like Baseball Blogs, Basketball Blogs, Beer Blogs, Car Blogs, Football Blogs, Poker Blogs, Wine Blogs....there is a Wonks Community you will enjoy!

WineWonks.com is owned and operated by Dimat Enterprises.


More about Dimat
"Dimat" is a major Poker Book publisher, with a popular Poker Forum, which originated from the book Internet Texas Holdem, by Matthew Hilger. Internet Poker Rankings tracks the top online poker players. Poker Bonos Gratis was designed to bring Free Poker Gifts to the Spanish Speaking Market.